Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Poking a dead guy with a stick

Click here to for a journalist revisiting revelations about Bobby Fischer's ancestry, among other things (LA Times). Not much chess in there.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chess Opening Advice for Beginners

The following is an email I sent to a chess bud. I think it is enough to get you to a decent middlegame. It applies whether you are playing as black or as white. Of course I don't claim it is unique: it is the standard opening boilerplate prep talk.

There are two goals you want to aim for in the opening of a chess game:
1. Develop all of your minor pieces (Knights and Bishops), preferably so they control as many central squares as possible.
2. Castle and get your King to safety.

The four opening rules all follow from the above goals. They are:
1. Make as few pawn moves as possible, and preferably move either the d or the e pawn two squares forward.
Make as few pawn moves as possible because you want your pieces to do the heavy attacking (for the most part). Moving a central pawn forward two squares is the most permissive, and least restrictive move for your pieces (e.g., you won't block in a Bishop). It also gives you some control over the center.

2. Move Knights before Bishops.
This is because Knights almost always belong on f3 or c3, and we know that early in the game. However, we are often not sure where Bishops belong until we see what our opponent is up to. Also, the Knights move more slowly than the Bishops, so there if there is action somewhere on the board your Knights will be better able to reach it from the center.

3. Don't move a piece twice in the opening.
Use your moves to develop other pieces. Get all of your army into the board. You wouldn't just send the cavalry out if you have tanks and guns in your arsenal.

4. Castle early.
The longer you wait to castle, the more likely your opponent is going to harass your King. Castling is a very smart move, as it is really two moves in one. You not only tuck your King away into a safe place, but you get to develop your Rook at the same time! By move 10, if you haven't castled you better have a good reason.

Caveats etc
Of course, there are some tactical exceptions to every rule. Also, there are perfectly good openings that violate the principles, but if you follow the principles you will be OK.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Synoptic versus myopic views of chess

Tommyg has similar themes in his recent great post.

Speaking of fresh perspectives, Dk Transform has some great new videos up. The first could be a Saturday Night Live audition tape. Great to associate a face/voice with his David Foster Wallace style blog.

OK, now on to the main topic of my post....


I made a visit to the library where the Carolina Cobras played last night, where Loomis was TD. It was fun, after a couple of months away from chess, just to hang out and talk about chess, to play some blitz, and to not be all wrapped up in it like my life (and most literally, my self esteem) depended on it.

Watching IM Jonathan Schroer do a postmortem of his game (he's an IM and drew a 2600 GM) was like watching Mozart perform. It was fucking awesome he is so good it is a joy to watch. I was speechless I had nothing to offer but just watching he and loomis talk over the position was awesome and I soaked everything up that I heard.

I got to talk to Ron Simpson, a super nice guy. He told me to not try to force things in chess, to play solid chess and let the other person make a mistake. He pointed out that brilliancies are only possible when someone makes a mistake. Craig Jones was there, an intense dude who typically is at the first board by the end of the tournaments in my area (typically it is him against Simpson). He also seems really nice, and I liked his team-first attitude.

It made me want to play chess again. It also made me consider something new. No chess study. Every coach I've had has commented on how much I like to study, as opposed to just play chess. Schroer used to be my coach and would tell me to just play a bunch of chess, stop studying stuff. I never really listened. Not only would it just be fun, but perhaps I'd actually get better. Frankly, I don't give a shit any more. I just want to enjoy this game. It is really a beautiful game, and doesn't deserve to be sullied by getting linked to the self-esteem of insecure people.

Nobody at my level knows deep opening theory. I don't need to stress. Nobody knows deep endgame theory. I don't have to worry. I can have fun playing at the level at which I'm supposed to be. If that's the U1400 section for the rest of my life, fuck it.